SPARTANBURG, S.C. – It may be just the second weekend of games in the ECHL, but it is abundantly clear the Greenville Swamp Rabbits need help. The Swamp Rabbits defense looked terrible this weekend in two clashes against South Division foes.
Game #3 — Friday @ Atlanta Gladiators at Infinite Energy Arena
The Swamp Rabbits traveled to Atlanta to face off with the Gladiators. It was a close contest until the Gladiators really opened things up with a three-goal onslaught in the second period. Dylan Vander Esch was the lone bright spot for the Swamp Rabbits on Friday night, scoring the only goal for the Swamp Rabbits early in the third period. The Swamp Rabbits special teams, which performed very well on opening weekend, could not get anything going against Atlanta. They were 0-for-6 on the power play and allowed a shorthanded goal Friday night. Atlanta out-shot Greenville 36-24 and it just proved to be too much for Garrett Bartus as the Gladiators grabbed two points by winning, 4-1.
Game #4 — Saturday @ South Carolina at North Charleston Coliseum
After Friday’s loss, it seemed obvious that coach Kevin Kerr would be giving Devin Buffalo his first ECHL start in goal for Saturday’s game against the South Carolina Stingrays. Buffalo started in goal but the problems from Friday night’s game seemed to worsen. The Swamp Rabbits’ offense came alive on Saturday, but the lack of defense was impossible to overcome.
Michael Pelech looked really great in this game, scoring two goals. Chris Izmirlian and Trevor Owens also found the back of the net on Saturday night. It was Owens’ first professional goal. Johno May, J.C. Brassard, and Austen Brassard added two assists each. An offensive showing like that usually yields a good result. Buffalo had to face a couple 5-on-3 situations that would be tough for any netminder. It feels odd to say that a goalie had a decent game when the opponent scored seven goals but Buffalo really had no help. The Stingrays special teams proved to be too much as they went on to win, 7-4.
The Rabbits were 18-31-5 against the South Division last season. They are not off to a good start here in 2018-19.
Takeaways from the Weekend
This is a Swamp Rabbits team that looks like it will have no trouble scoring goals this season, but a suspect defense continues to hamper this team. Garrett Bartus and Devin Buffalo have put together solid efforts in goal so far this season, they just need some help in front them.
The special teams, penalty kill particularly, have to get better moving forward. They converted 2-of-13 chances on the man-advantage this weekend and now sit mid-pack in the ECHL with a 16.7% conversion rate on the power-play. On the penalty kill, the Swamp Rabbits rank 23rd with a 71.4% kill rate, including allowing four goals on ten times shorthanded (60% kill rate) this weekend.
The Swamp Rabbits will play three games in three days this coming weekend. It starts with a trip to Jacksonville to play the IceMen on Friday, before heading home to play the Gladiators on Saturday and the IceMen again on Sunday afternoon.